NHL capsules: Eastern Conference

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:43 PM ET

 

NORTHEAST DIVISION

BOSTON BRUINS

SAY HELLO TO

D Joe Corvo

LW Benoit Pouliot

SAY GOODBYE TO

D Tomas Kaberle

RW Mark Recchi

RW Michael Ryder

ON THE MEND

C Marc Savard (concussion) is expected to miss the entire season.

INSIDER SAYS

This team plays with the heart and stones of a defending champion, assisted by solid goaltending and a dominating defence. Up front, look for Tyler Seguin’s minutes to rise significantly with Marc Savard no longer in the picture.

PIVOTAL PLAYER

D Zdeno Chara

Has anyone located the Sedin twins yet after their invisible performance in the Stanley Cup final? You can chalk up their disappearing act to Chara, who smothered them. He’s the best shut-down defenceman in the game.

2010-11 RECORD: 46-25-11 Finished 3rd in conference, 1st in Northeast Division.

IN A SHOOTOUT

David Krecji

Nathan Horton

Patrice Bergeron

BURNING QUESTION

Can the Bruins overcome the cursed Stanley Cup hangover, the same ailment that kept the previous champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, from advancing past the first round last spring?

SOFT SPOT

The Bruins have adopted an “offence by committee” approach, one that allowed them to get past the Canucks in seven games in the final. But without that one stud scorer, there is always the danger the offence can run dry, as it did at times during the 2010-11 season.

CAP ROOM

$1.4 million

******* 

BUFFALO SABRES

SAY HELLO TO

D Christian Ehrhoff

D Robyn Regehr

LW Ville Leino

SAY GOODBYE TO

C Tim Connolly

D Chris Butler

D Steve Montador

C Rob Niedermayer

G Patrick Lalime

ON THE MEND

C Jochen Hecht (concussion) could miss the Oct. 7 season opener.

RW Jason Pominville (leg) is out indefinitely.

INSIDER SAYS

Finally, some help for Ryan Miller. When your top three defencemen are Tyler Myers, Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff, that’s quality. Regehr is

6-foot-4 and Myers 6-foot-8, so cue the intimidation factor.

PIVOTAL PLAYER

G Ryan Miller

The Sabres shelled out gobs of cash to bolster their roster during the summer, but none of those additions will matter if Miller gets hurt or wobbles. Can be a difference-maker each time he straps on the pads.

2O10-11 RECORD: 43-29-9-1 Finished 7th in conference, 3rd in Northeast Division.

BURNING QUESTION

Will moneybags owner Terry Pegula’s deep pockets finally bring Buffalo its first Stanley Cup in franchise history?

IN A SHOOTOUT

Thomas Vanek

Derek Roy

Ville Leino

SOFT SPOT

It’s easy to bring in talent but finding chemistry with so many new faces is a difficult task. Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles.

CAP ROOM

$1.1 million

*******

MONTREAL CANADIENS

SAY HELLO TO

LW Erik Cole

G Peter Budaj

D Chris Campoli

SAY GOODBYE TO

D James Wisniewski

D Roman Hamrlik

LW Benoit Pouliot

C Jeff Halpern

D Brent Sopel

D Paul Mara

G Alex Auld

ON THE MEND

D Andre Markov (knee) is out indefinitely.

LW Max Pacioretty (concussion) is out indefinitely.

F Lars Ellers (shoulder) is out indefinitely.

INSIDER SAYS

A lot of people forget the Canadiens came within one Game 7 overtime goal of booting the eventual champion Boston Bruins out of the playoffs in the first round. They really seem to rally around coach Jacques Martin in the playoffs more so than during the season.

PIVOTAL PLAYER

D Andrei Markov

Markov’s rehab from an injured knee appeared to hit a snag recently, causing trepidation in Habs Nation that he again might be out for a hefty chunk of time. While Canadiens management said Markov shouldn’t miss too many games, this much is certain: The Canadiens defence and power play is upgraded significantly whenever Markov is in the lineup.

2010-11 RECORD: 44-30-5-3 Finished 6th in conference, 2nd in Northeast Division.

IN A SHOOTOUT

Mike Cammalleri

Tomas Plekanec

Brian Gionta

BURNING QUESTION

Is this the season the enigmatic Andrei Kostitsyn finally produces the points to match his ridiculously high talent level?

SOFT SPOT

Even with the addition of Erik Cole, the Canadiens remain too small at forward. When it comes to cycling and doing the sweaty grunt work along the boards, where’s the beef?

CAP ROOM

$1.2 million

*******

OTTAWA SENATORS

SAY HELLO TO

LW Nikita Filatov

C Zenon Konopka

G Alex Auld

RW Mark Parrish

SAY GOODBYE TO

RW Ryan Shannon

G Curtis McElhinney

C Cody Bass

ON THE MEND

None.

INSIDER SAYS

Give Bryan Murray kudos for realizing a total rebuild was needed for this team. There will be some growing pains, sure. At the same time, youngsters such as Bobby Butler and Erik Karlsson provide a good foundation and there potential is promising.

PIVOTAL PLAYER

G Craig Anderson

Still not sure why Colorado traded Anderson for Brian Elliott last winter other than the fact the Avs didn’t want to pay Anderson, a pending free agent. Ottawa certainly did, quickly locking him up to a new deal after the trade. Now it’s time to see if they made a solid investment. All signs suggest they did.

2010-11 RECORD: 32-40-5-5 Finished 13th in the conference, 5th in Northeast Division.

IN A SHOOTOUT

Daniel Alfredsson

Jason Spezza

Bobby Butler

BURNING QUESTION

Will this be the last hurrah for captain Daniel Alfredsson, one of the classiest individuals to lace up a set of blades in this league?

SOFT SPOT

Goals will be hard to come by once you get past the likes of Spezza, Alfredsson, Butler and Milan Michalek. The onus now shifts to gritty Nick Foligno and skilled youngster Nikita Filatov to pick up the offensive slack.

CAP ROOM

$1.36 million

 

*******

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

SAY HELLO TO

C Tim Connolly

D John-Michael Liles

C Matthew Lombardi

D Cody Franson

C Philippe Dupuis

SAY GOODBYE TO

G J.S. Giguere

C Tim Brent

D Brett Lebda

C Christian Hanson

ON THE MEND

F Phil Kessel (groin) is day to day.

F Tim Connolly (upper body) is day to day.

F Nazem Kadri (leg) could be out three weeks.

INSIDER SAYS

Tim Connolly was supposed to be the playmaking centre Phil Kessel yearned for, but the fact the ex-Sabre has been banged up in training camp cannot be a good sign. If this was the Leafs’ Plan B in free agency after losing out on Brad Richards, they had better cross their fingers that his body holds up.

PIVOTAL PLAYER

G James Reimer

By the time Reimer had completed his Cinderella season, he was being dubbed in some circles as the next Curtis Joseph or Ed Belfour. Reality check, folks. Let’s see if he can do it again. For the Leafs to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004, he’ll have to.

2010-11 RECORD: 37-34-11 Finished 10th in conference, 4th in Northeast Division.

IN A SHOOTOUT

Phil Kessel

Nikolai Kulemin

Mikhail Grabovski

BURNING QUESTION

How secure will Ron Wilson’s job be if the Leafs get off to a slow start, given that they haven’t made the playoffs in his three previous seasons as coach?

SOFT SPOT

Depth up front has been this team’s weakness since Brian Burke took over almost three years ago. To his credit, he has attempted to address the problem by bringing in Connolly, Kessel and Clarke MacArthur. But that might not be enough to snap the seven-year playoff drought.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

CAROLINA HURRICANES

SAY HELLO TO

D Tomas Kaberle

LW Alexei Ponikarovsky

RW Anthony Stewart

G Brian Boucher

C Tim Brent

SAY GOODBYE TO

LW Erik Cole

D Joe Corvo

ON THE MEND

None.

INSIDER SAYS

Bringing in big bodies up front in Alexei Ponikarovsky and Anthony Stewart will help the Canes’ cycle game. But the departure of Erik Cole, captain Eric Staal’s longtime linemate, definitely will hurt.

PIVOTAL PLAYER

D Tomas Kaberle

With puck-moving defenceman Joe Corvo having moved on to Boston, Kaberle is an ideal replacement as the power-play quarterback. Kaberle will be reunited with Paul Maurice, who coached him with the Leafs for a couple of years.

2010-11 RECORD: 40-31-6-5 Finished 9th in conference, 3rd in Southeast Division.

IN A SHOOTOUT

Eric Staal

Jeff Skinner

Jussi Jokinen

BURNING QUESTION

Will Brian Boucher be able to ease the workload of first-string goalie Cam Ward, who played 74 games last season and appeared fatigued down the stretch?

SOFT SPOT

Staal and sophomore Jeff Skinner will be counted on to shoulder the offensive load, but the depth at forward thins out after that.

CAP ROOM

$14.5 million

*******

FLORIDA PANTHERS

SAY HELLO TO

D Brian Campbell

G Jose Theodore

LW Tomas Fleischmann

D Ed Jovanovski

RW Kris Versteeg

RW Scottie Upshall

RW Tomas Kopecky

LW Sean Bergenheim

RW Matt Bradley

C Marcel Goc

C Angelo Esposito

SAY GOODBYE TO

G Tomas Vokoun

LW Rostislav Olesz

C Marty Reasoner

RW Niclas Bergfors

LW Darcy Hordichuk

ON THE MEND

C Mike Santorelli (shoulder) is expected to be out until at least mid-October.

G Scott Clemmensen (knee) could be out a month.

INSIDER SAYS

This organization finally shelled out some coin and brought in 15 new faces.

So what took so long? Where was this generosity when guys like Bouwmeester and Horton were still around?

PIVOTAL PLAYER

D Brian Campbell

Campbell arguably is the most effortless skater in the NHL but his critics will argue that he does not nearly show enough fire in his belly. Campbell waived his no-trade clause to be reunited with former Hawks GM Dale Tallon in Florida. Panther fans hope his motivation cuts much deeper than a simple desire to work on his tan.

2010-11 RECORD: 30-40-5-7 Finished 15th in conference, 5th in Southeast Division.

IN A SHOOTOUT

David Booth

Kris Versteeg

Steven Weiss

BURNING QUESTION

Can a team with 10 projected new starters from a season ago somehow jell quickly enough for a rare playoff run in south Florida?

SOFT SPOT

More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Panthers opted to replace free-agent goalie Tomas Vokoun with former Habs star Jose Theodore. Theodore has shown flashes of his old form the past couple of years, but will be hard-pressed to rediscover the consistency of yesteryear.

CAP ROOM

$13.6 million

*******

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

SAY HELLO TO

G Mathieu Garon

D Bruno Gervais

RW Ryan Shannon

D Matt Gilroy

SAY GOODBYE TO

LW Simon Gagne

G Mike Smith

LW Sean Bergenheim

D Mark-Andre Pouliot

ON THE MEND

None.

INSIDER SAYS

Rookie coach Guy Boucher did a masterful job of getting the Lightning all the way to the Eastern Conference final including playoff victories over the Pens and Caps. He’s an excellent tactician and motivator who finds ways to put each player in a position where he can succeed.

PIVOTAL PLAYER

G Dwayne Roloson

We all know about the Big Three up front- Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. And the defence is improving. But all that will be for naught if 40-something goalie Roloson starts playing like he’s in a seniors league, not the NHL.

2010-11 RECORD: 46-25-5-6 Finished 5th in conference, 2nd in Southeast Division

IN A SHOOTOUT

Steven Stamkos

Martin St. Louis

Vinny Lecavalier

BURNING QUESTION

Is this the year former high first-round pick Victor Hedman finally breaks out?

SOFT SPOT

Goaltending. Count on GM Steve Yzerman to act quickly to fix the problem if Roloson and Mathieu Garon struggle. Stevie Y doesn’t want this to be a version of past Flyers teams- loads of talent up front and on the blue line, not so much between the pipes.

CAP ROOM

$3.9 million

*******

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

SAY HELLO TO

G Tomas Vokoun

D Roman Hamrlik

RW Troy Brouwer

RW Joel Ward

C Jeff Halpern

C Ryan Potulny

C Christian Hanson

SAY GOODBYE TO

G Semyon Varlamov

D Scott Hannan

C Jason Arnott

LW Marco Sturm

RW Eric Fehr

C Boyd Gordon

RW Matt Bradley

ON THE MEND

D John Erskine (shoulder) is expected back in October.

D Tom Poti (groin) is out indefinitely.

INSIDER SAYS

Sure, this might be the NHL’s most talented team. On paper. But as former coach Pat Quinn once said: “You can do a lot of things with paper- you wipe things with it, wrap things in it.” Harsh? Perhaps. At the same time, the Caps still haven’t won a Cup, have they?

PIVOTAL PLAYER

G Tomas Vokoun

While the playoff woes of the past can’t solely be blamed on jittery goaltending, it certainly hasn’t helped. Vokoun brings a veteran presence and his calming influence should spread through the dressing room. He’ll face a lot less rubber in Washington than he did in Florida.

IN A SHOOTOUT

Alexander Ovechkin

Alexander Semin

Nick Backstrom

BURNING QUESTION

Moody enigma or talented superstar: Will the real Alex Semin please stand up?

SOFT SPOT

Bruce Boudreau’s defence-first system got the Caps to the second round, but the Lightning exposed Washington’s blue line at that point. A full, healthy season for both Dennis Wideman and Mike Green would help.

CAP ROOM

$0

2010-11 RECORD: 48-23-5-6 Finished 1st in conference, 1st in Southeast Division.

*******

WINNIPEG JETS

SAY HELLO TO

RW Eric Fehr

LW Tanner Glass

D Randy Jones

SAY GOODBYE TO

RW Anthony Stewart

RW Radek Dvorak

LW Eric Boulton

C Angelo Esposito

ON THE MEND

D Tom Poti (groin) is on long-term injured reserve.

INSIDER SAYS

Through all the hoopla of this franchise’s relocation to Winnipeg, keep in mind that this team was formidable in Atlanta throughout the first half of 2010-11. Interesting to see how Dustin Byfuglien’s legal issues affect the team, if at all.

PIVOTAL PLAYER

F/D Dustin Byfuglien

He is the face of the franchise- as long as that face isn’t plastered on a police mug shot. His combination of hustle and muscle is a rare combination. Arguably has the hardest shot in the NHL.

2010-11 RECORD: 34-36-5-7 Finished 12th in conference, 4th in Southeast Division.

IN A SHOOTOUT

Evander Kane

Dustin Byfuglien

Brian Little

BURNING QUESTION

How will the Jets handle still being in the Southeast, a division that features the likes of Cam Ward, Eric Staal, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Nick Backstrom and Alexander Semin?

SOFT SPOT

Where will the goals come from? Byfuglien and Evander Kane will get their share, but that might not be enough. Giddy Jets fans will have to be patient.

CAP ROOM

$12.8 million

*******

ATLANTIC DIVISION

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

SAY HELLO TO

LW Eric Boulton

RW Cam Janssen

SAY GOODBYE TO

D Tyler Eckford

ON THE MEND

F Travis Zajac (Achilles) likely will be out until at least mid-December.

INSIDER SAYS

By bringing in Peter DeBoer as coach, Lou Lamoriello can expect his players to tighten up their defensive games much like the Devils did in their glory days. Trouble is, do they have the talent to pull it off?

PIVOTAL PLAYER

Zach Parise

Out of the lineup since suffering a horrific knee injury in October, Parise will need to step right in and augment an inconsistent offence that staggered through much of the 2010-11 season. Ilya Kovalchuk might have more star power, but Parise is the better all-around player.

2010-11 RECORD: 38-39-3-2 Finished 11th in conference, 4th in Atlantic Division.

IN A SHOOTOUT

Ilya Kovalchuk

Zach Parise

Patrick Elias

BURNING QUESTION

Does future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur have enough skill and stamina left to lead the Devils back to the playoffs?

SOFT SPOT

Andy Greene leads a no-name defence that has some promising youngsters but struggled last season. The days of Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer patrolling the blue line and dominating the game from the back end are long gone.

CAP ROOM

$570,000

*******

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

SAY HELLO TO

C Marty Reasoner

SAY GOODBYE TO

C Doug Weight

D Radek Martinek

D Bruno Gervais

ON THE MEND

D Andrew MacDonald (hip) could be out until late November.

INSIDER SAYS

Not that there were a lot of people who went to the Nassau Mausoleum to see them, but these young Islanders were one of the more exciting teams to watch down the stretch last season. Nice that John Tavares made a long-term commitment over the summer to stay with the organization. He must like what he sees in the dressing room.

PIVOTAL PLAYER(S)

Rick DiPietro/Al Montoya/Evgeni Nabokov

Would someone please step up and take the No. 1 goalie job? And fast. When DiPietro’s not hurt, he’s probably counting his money from that ridiculous 15-year, $67.5-million deal he signed several years ago. Montoya, whom the nearby Rangers all but gave up on, has rebuilt his career. Expect Nabokov to be used as trade bait. 

2010-11 RECORD: 30-39-7-6 Finished 14th in conference, 5th in Atlantic Division.

IN A SHOOTOUT

John Tavares

Matt Moulson

Kyle Okposo

BURNING QUESTION

Will the Isles’ promising cache of young talent FINALLY be enough to land them a post-season berth?

SOFT SPOT

The goalie merry-go-round. Long Island has been a scrap heap for goalies.

Where’s Billy Smith or Chico Resch when you need him?

CAP ROOM

$14.4 million

*******

NEW YORK RANGERS

SAY HELLO TO

C Brad Richards

C Michael Rupp

D Tim Erixon

SAY GOODBYE TO

C Chris Drury

C Vaclav Prospal

LW Alexander Frolov

D Bryan McCabe

D Matt Gilroy

ON THE MEND

D Marc Staal (concussion) is day to day.

INSIDER SAYS

Brad Richards was the gem of the free-agent crop this summer and now he’s reunited with coach John Tortorella. The two won a Cup together with Tampa in 2004 and plan to do it again, this time in New York. Not sure they have the supporting cast, though.

PIVOTAL PLAYERS

Brad Richards

He kills penalties, can play the point on the power play and is good in the faceoff circle. But Richards’ most admirable trademark is that he makes those around him better. He did it in Tampa and in Dallas and now we’ll see if he can give the likes of Marian Gaborik and Wojtek Wolski a boost.

2010-11 RECORD: 44-33-2-3 Finished 8th in conference, 3rd in Atlantic Division

IN A SHOOTOUT

Brad Richards

Marian Gaborik

Wojtek Wolski

BURNING QUESTION

Do the Rangers have enough talent to win a Cup while goalie Henrik Lundqvist is in his prime or will they waste that window of opportunity?

SOFT SPOT

While Rangers defencemen are efficient in their own end, this team is in dire need of some offensive pop from the position. The hope is that Michael Del Zotto learned from his banishment to the AHL a year ago and can supply points, especially on the power play. Brian Leetch, where are you?

CAP ROOM

$5.7 million

*******

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

SAY HELLO TO

G Ilya Bryzgalov

RW Jacob Voracek

RW Jaromir Jagr

RW Wayne Simmonds

C Braydon Schenn

C Maxime Talbot

D Andreas Lilja

SAY GOODBYE TO

C Mike Richards

C Jeff Carter

LW Ville Leino

LW Kris Versteeg

RW Nikolai Zherdev

D Sean O’Donnell

LW Dan Carcillo

G Brian Boucher

ON THE MEND

None.

INSIDER SAYS

Jeff Carter had the reputation of being moody at times so trading him to Columbus and shedding salary in order to make room for Ilya Bryzgalov, the goalie this franchise has been missing for so long, is understandable. But shipping out heart-and-soul guy Mike Richards is confusing. If he was such a bad influence, why did John Stevens and Terry Murray, two former members of the Flyers organization, covet him?

PIVOTAL PLAYERS

G Ilya Bryzgalov

When Brian Boucher joked during the Flyers goalie roulette in last spring’s playoffs that he and teammates Sergei Bobrovsky and Michael Leighton should be called The Three Stooges, no one in Philly was laughing. Over the past decade, a No. 1 goalie has been lacking. Now they think they have one in Bryzgalov.

2010-11 RECORD: 47-23-5-7 Finished 2nd in conference, 1st in Atlantic Division

IN A SHOOTOUT

Danny Briere

Claude Giroux

Jaromir Jagr

BURNING QUESTION

Does Jaromir Jagr have anything left in the tank at age 39?

SOFT SPOT

You can’t just wave goodbye to the likes of Carter, Richards and Kris Versteeg without denting your depth up front. Jagr, rookie Brayden Schenn and winger Wayne Simmonds will help, but they won’t replace the points that left town.

CAP SPACE

$1.4 million

*******

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

SAY HELLO TO

LW Steve Sullivan

SAY GOODBYE TO

C Max Talbot

RW Alexei Kovalev

C Michael Rupp

ON THE MEND

C Sidney Crosby (concussion) is out indefinitely.

INSIDER SAYS

Lost in the understandable concern over Sidney Crosby’s condition has been the welcomed return of Evgeni Malkin. His absence was very noticeable in the Pens’ first-round elimination by the Lightning. There is good reason Pittsburgh is glad he is back from a knee injury

PIVOTAL PLAYER

F Sidney Crosby

Crosby’s return is paramount to the Stanley Cup aspirations of this team. If and when he does return, the addition of James Neal, acquired last February, will pay dividends. Crosby’s health is the No. 1 priority in Steeltown.

2010-11 Record: 49-25-5-3 Finished 4th in conference, 2nd in Atlantic Division.

IN A SHOOTOUT

Evgeni Malkin

Kris Letang

Sidney Crosby

BURNING QUESTION

Can Pittsburgh’s Big Three- Crosby, Malkin and Jordan Staal- all be healthy enough at some point to be in the lineup at the same time?

SOFT SPOT

With Crosby and Malkin both sidelined, secondary scoring was hard to come by last year. It’s time for Neal and Chris Kunitz to step up whether the stars are playing or not.

CAP ROOM

$1.2 million


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